Business and Enterprise Key Resources

Business and enterprise
The informal economy
Market access
Value chains
Ethical trade
Labour rights
Organisations and websites

Business and enterprise

Female Entrepreneurship Across Countries and in Development – Special section in European Journal of Development Research 22(3) (July 2010),

This special section of EJDR consists of five papers. The first, ‘What Do We Know About The Patterns and Determinants of Female Entrepreneurship Across Countries?’, by Maria Minniti and Wim Naudé, provides an introduction to the subsequent papers, framing the challenges posed by female entrepreneurship to the research community, and reviewing the existing literature. This paper is free to view in its entirety, at The rest of the articles in the section, for which there is free access to the abstracts only (which are also available in French) are as follows: ‘Female Entrepreneurship and Economic Activity’; ‘Female Entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean: Characteristics, Drivers and Relationship to Economic Development’; ‘Gendered Institutions and Cross-national Patterns of Business Creation for Men and Women’; and ‘Identifying and Addressing Gender Issues in Doing Business’ [the World Bank’s annual flagship publication]. The editors of the special section also give a helpful overview of the topic of female entrepreneurship in developing countries on the United Nations University website, at:

Tiger Girls: Women and Enterprises in the People’s Republic of China (2011), Minglu Chen, Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge, ISBN: 978-0-415-60013-2, 258 pp., website:

Based on a series of interviews with female enterprise owners, wives of enterprise owners, and women managers conducted in three different provinces of China, this study examines the lives of women entrepreneurs in China, and by extension the role of leading women in the workforce. Existing scholarship suggests that gender disparities still exist in terms of education, employment, political participation, and family, and that women remain poorly represented in China’s recent and rapid economic development. One of the book’s key findings is the importance of local politics – highlighting the close connections of many of these successful businesswomen to the Party and state.

Onions Are My Husband: Survival and Accumulation by West African Market Women (1994), Gracia Clark, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN: 9780226107806, 488 pp., website:

The Central Market, in Kumasi, Ghana, is one of Africa’s largest markets. In what has become a classic work, the author explores the lives of the market women of Kumasi, whose roles range from sellers of food and cheap manufactured goods, to powerful wholesalers who control the flow of important commodities. The complex economic, political, gender, and ethnic dynamics at play in the operation of the market are analysed and the many challenges to the women’s survival as they seek to make their living in the market are discussed in an impressive and engaging work of scholarship.

African Market Women: Seven Life Stories from Ghana, Gracia Clark (2010), Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, ISBN: 978-0-253-22154-4, 280 pp., website:

Written by the author of Onions Are My Husband, this book relates the life stories of Ghanaian women market traders, who reflect on changing social and economic conditions, and on reasons for their prosperity or lack of it. Revealing that these market women are closely connected with economic policy on a global scale, and are working at the intersection of sophisticated networks of transnational commerce and migration, their accounts also provide a valuable insight into how the forces of globalisation, capital accumulation, colonialism, technological change, environmental degradation, and changing gender roles, are experienced at the level of the individual.

Enterprising Women in Urban Zimbabwe: Gender, Microbusiness and Globalization (2009), Mary Johnson Osirim, Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, ISBN: 1-800-842-6796, 248 pp., website:

This fascinating book is based on interviews conducted in the 1990s with women in the Zimbabwean cities of Harare and Bulawayo, who were working in the market trade and in the sewing, crocheting, and hairdressing fields of the microenterprise sector, whilst facing the challenges brought about by the introduction of Zimbabwe’s Economic Structural Adjustment Program, in 1991. After an extremely helpful chapter outlining the theory and history of the study of women in the microenterprise sector, the book goes on to examine the work and family lives of 157 women entrepreneurs, looking at how the global economy, the state, and non-government organisations (NGOs) – along with the variables of race, class, and gender – shaped these entrepreneurs’ experiences.

Assessing the Business Environment for Women’s Entrepreneurship Development in the Kyrgyz Republic (2009), Rafkat Hasanov, Saltanat Biybosunova, and Saviya Hasanova, Moscow: International Labour Organization,—ed_emp/—emp_ent/documents/publication/wcms_118333.pdf, 44 pp.

This International Labour Organization report evaluates the business environment for women’s entrepreneurship in small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development in the Kyrgyz Republic, and assesses differences in the business environment’s impact on men and women who own and manage their own companies. The paper looks at why women go into business, and the difficulties they face, many of which are gender-specific, and ends with a set of recommendations on how to improve the institutional and legislative system to benefit SMEs and how to remove the barriers to the development of women’s entrepreneurship.

‘Female entrepreneurship in transition economies: the case of Lithuania and Ukraine’ (2007), Ruta Aidis, Friederike Welter, David Smallbone, and Nina Isakova, Feminist Economics 13(2): 157–83

This paper compares the situation of women entrepreneurs in two countries at different stages in the process of economic transformation after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Lithuania has followed a rapid transitional path leading to European Union membership, with Ukraine on a much slower development path. While women entrepreneurs in Lithuania and Ukraine share many common features and problems, as the authors make clear, there are important differences in the experiences of women in these two countries, indicating a need to recognise the diversity that exists among ‘transition’ countries (i.e. those moving from a centrally planned to a free market economy), reflecting different inheritances from the Soviet past, as well as differences in the pace of change during the transition period.

Women’s Economic Opportunities in the Formal Private Sector in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Focus on Entrepreneurship (2010), German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC: The World Bank, 54 pp. (also available in Spanish)

Focusing on the formal private sector, this particularly interesting and well-designed paper seeks to establish why women entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean are over-represented in microenterprises and small businesses, and concentrated in fewer economic sectors than male-owned businesses. While acknowledging that microenterprises may be important in the short run from the point of view of women’s economic empowerment or poverty reduction, the paper suggests that a shift to placing more emphasis on promoting the growth of female-owned businesses, rather than on business creation, is needed, and to this end, provides several policy recommendations to help increase women’s economic opportunities in the formal private sector.

‘Women-owned SMEs in Bangladesh: challenges in institutional financing’ (2012), Salma C. Zohir and Patricia G. Greene, in Karen Hughes and Jennifer Jennings (eds.) Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Research: Diverse Settings, Questions and Approaches, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, pp. 36–55, website:

This clearly written and extremely informative chapter provides a profile of women’s entrepreneurship in Bangladesh, and assesses the barriers faced by women business owners in gaining access to institutional finance, despite the existence of several national policy commitments to improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs. The paper ends with recommendations for policy interventions and the enhancement of women entrepreneurs’ capabilities, in a context in which women’s entrepreneurship is still not well accepted by families, or Bangladeshi society in general.

Strengthening Access to Finance for Women-owned SMEs in Developing Countries (2011), Washington, DC: International Finance Corporation,$FILE/G20_Women_Report.pdf, 94 pp.

Produced by the International Finance Corporation on behalf of the G20’s Global Plan for Financial Inclusion, this report, which contains much useful data, discusses why it is that women entrepreneurs have more limited access to finance by examining both the non-financial and financial barriers to women-owned Small and Medium Enterprise growth. It goes on to provide successful models of institutions that have addressed these constraints, and, taking an instrumentalist line, highlights the market potential for better serving this part of the market, and ends with policy recommendations aimed at addressing the challenge.

‘The impact of microcredit programmes on survivalist women entrepreneurs in The Gambia and Senegal’ (2010), Bert Casier, in S. Chant (ed.) The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, pp. 612–17, website:

In this excellent short paper, the author assesses the impact of two microcredit programmes on business growth among low-income-level women – one in Gambia and one in Senegal – and considers the women’s main motivations for starting a business, the capacity of microcredit to generate growth at individual and group levels, and the local perceptions of entrepreneurship, which was generally regarded as a ‘male thing’.

‘Growth determinants of women-operated micro and small enterprises in Addis Ababa’ (2010), Rahel Wasihun and Issac Paul, Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa 12(6): 233–46, Determinants of Women-Operated Micro and Small Enterprises.pdf

With more and more emphasis being paid by policymakers and donors on the role of micro-and small enterprises in enhancing growth and alleviating poverty, this valuable study investigates the constraints and key determinants of growth, particularly in employment expansion, among women’s enterprises in 123 businesses located in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The study’s findings shows that marketing problems resulting from the presence of competitors with identical products, changes in demand, and an absence of market linkages are the basic constraints to the growth of women’s enterprises, and a lack of enough working space, difficulties in acquiring raw materials, a shortage of working capital, and poor access to loans are the subsequent growth barriers for women’s enterprises.

Gender equality: it’s your business – Briefings for Business No 7 (2012), Oxford: Oxfam International,, 22 pp.

Oxfam’s Briefings for Business aim to promote the positive role the private sector can play in poverty reduction. This latest contribution to the series is intended for senior managers in global and national companies, particularly those producing and retailing food and fast-moving consumer goods, and which source goods or labour in developing countries. The briefing sets out why companies should pay attention to gender equality, for reasons relating to both women’s rights and the business case for doing so, and addresses four key areas in which business operations most clearly interact and influence women’s rights: business as large, direct employer; business as a key player in value chains; business as a purchaser of food commodities; and business as a provider of products and services in developing countries. The briefing also includes a useful further reading section.

United Nations Global Compact Women’s Empowerment Principles Booklet (Second Edition) (2011), New York: UN Women and UN Global Compact Office,, 16 pp. (also available in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish)

The Women’s Empowerment Principles are a set of principles emphasising the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. They are the result of a collaboration between UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact (an initiative for those businesses committed to aligning their operations with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption). The principles are not only aimed at business – as part of a good corporate citizenship agenda – but also at other stakeholders, including governments, in their engagement with business.

The informal economy

‘The reality of women’s informal work’, in Martha Chen, Joann Vanek, Francie Lund, James Heintz, with Renata Jhabvala and Christine Bonner, Progress of the World’s Women 2005: Women, Work and Poverty, New York: UNIFEM, Chapter Four, pp. 58–73, (also available in French and Spanish)

Women’s engagement with business and enterprise takes place in the context of a global economy in which a large proportion of the workforce – especially in developing countries – is employed in the informal economy. This chapter focuses on the costs and benefits associated with the different types of informal employment, especially those in which working-poor women are concentrated, arguing that economic policies that are explicitly employment-oriented and address the costs of informal employment can achieve better social outcomes – in terms of reducing both poverty and gender inequality – than policies that narrowly target growth. Chapter Five, ‘Women Organizing in the Informal Economy’, provides examples of successes achieved by the informed and sustained policy efforts of member-based organisations of informal workers.

‘Informality, poverty and gender: evidence from the Global South’ (2011), Marty Chen, in S. Chant (ed.) The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, pp. 463–71, website:

Making the case for an increased focus on employment, particularly informal employment – which is likely to expand significantly in the current economic crisis, and in which women are more likely to be engaged than men – in efforts to reduce poverty and promote gender equality, this chapter of the International Handbook of Gender and Poverty discusses the definition and concept of informal employment, outlines the links between informality, poverty, and gender, and calls for a reorientation of economic policies to focus on creating more and better work, for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy.

Mainstreaming Informal Employment and Gender in Poverty Reduction: A Hand Book for Policy-makers and Other Stakeholders (2004), Martha Alter Chen, Joann Vanek, and Marilyn Carr, London: Commonwealth Secretariat, ISBN: 978-0-85092-797-9, 248 pp. website: (also available to download as a pdf from, 177 pp.)

The authors of this book make the case for an increased emphasis on informal employment and gender in poverty-reduction strategies, pointing out the links between being informally employed, being a women or a man, and being poor, all in the context of the major changes experienced in the nature of work, which are related to economic restructuring and liberalisation. The authors set out a strategic framework that presents guidelines for policymakers seeking to follow this approach.

Market access

Making Markets Empower the Poor: Programme Perspectives on Using Markets to Empower Women and Men Living in Poverty, Oxfam Discussion Paper (2011), Erinch Sahan and Julia Fischer-Mackey, Oxford: Oxfam GB,, 28 pp.

Arguing that many market-based development programmes do not pay attention to power imbalances that perpetuate marginalisation and poverty, the authors of this extremely helpful Oxfam discussion paper examine the challenges, and relate experiences from Oxfam programmes, around power disparities in markets, which can prevent market-based programmes from reaching many marginalised people, especially women, who are not ‘market ready’.

Chains of Fortune: Linking Women Producers with Global Markets (2005), Marilyn Carr (ed.), London: Commonwealth Secretariat, ISBN: 978-0850927986, 220 pp., website: (also available to download as a pdf from, 220 pp.)

This book, which includes case studies of women producers and workers in a cocoa co-operative in Ghana, a coconut oil co-operative in Samoa, cashew nut smallholders and factory hands in Mozambique, and deciduous fruit workers in South Africa, aims to show that while the impact of globalisation on low-income women producers and workers has often been negative, globalisation, and especially trade liberalisation, can open up new economic opportunities which low-income women can take advantage of, if enabled to do so.

Enhancing Women’s Market Access and Promoting Pro-poor Growth (2006), Paris: OECD,, 10 pp.

Arguing that an understanding of how woman access markets as producers and wage labourers is likely to prove critical for fostering pro-poor and inclusive economic growth, this short paper gives an overview of the difficulties women face not only in the (often highly sex-segmented) labour market, but in financial markets, goods markets, and service markets, moving on to briefly discuss debates on approaches and interventions aimed at improving women’s access to markets, and sets out policy implications and recommendations for the future.

‘Gender and agricultural markets’, Module 5 in the Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook (2009), Washington, DC: World Bank, pp. 173–228,

This very valuable section in the Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook, published by the World Bank, the FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, analyses the inequality in access to those resources and opportunities that would enable women farmers and producers to move from subsistence agriculture to higher-value production. Using the value chain concept as an analytic tool, the module explains how to carry out a value chain analysis; and discusses problems faced by women in the business environment; capacity development for small-scale women entrepreneurs; collective action and market linkages; and supporting agricultural value-adding strategies. Relevant examples are provided throughout, and the module ends with three in-depth case studies.

Value chains

Gender and Value Chain Development: An Evaluation Study (2010), Lone Riisgaard, Anna Maria Escobar Fiblar, and Stefano Ponte, Copenhagen: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark,, 71 pp.

Opening with very helpful definitions of ‘value chains’, ‘value chain analysis’, and ‘value chain interventions’ (p. 6), this paper, which is based on the findings of existing evaluations, aims to uncover which gender issues are important when and where in value chains. The discussion is organised into four different sections: gender outcomes of value chain interventions focused on complying with sustainability standards; gender outcomes of generic value chain interventions; gender outcomes of value chain interventions that target only women; and gender mainstreaming in value chain projects.

Gender-aware Value Chain Development (2011), Cathy Rozel Farnworth, paper prepared for Expert Group Meeting – Enabling Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment: Institutions, Opportunities and Participation, Accra, Ghana, 20–23 September, New York: UN Women (EGM/RW/2011/EP.1),, 10 pp.

In a context of renewed global interest in food and farming, the author of this paper, adopting an instrumentalist approach, argues that developing gender-centred policies will ensure higher production and productivity in agriculture, and generate a large number of social benefits. With respect to value chains in particular, the fundamental premise is that paying attention to gender issues can increase production and productivity, speed up the adoption of innovations, raise household incomes, and ensure significant improvements to child health, nutrition and educational levels, thus contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Investing in women farmers, assisting them to move into off-farm income generation, and increasing their effective participation in value chain organisations, enhances the potential of value chain development to become an agent of sustainable social change.

Ethical Trade

Trading Our Way Up: Women Organizing for Fair Trade (2011), Elaine Jones, Sally Smith and Carol Wills, Cambridge, MA: WIEGO,, 120 pp.

Based on case studies from seven countries, (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Nepal, Nicaragua and Nepal) this report gives an account of an action research project looking at producer organisations of working poor women, and their engagement in Fair Trade Markets. It was found that across all countries, women producers had experienced significant progress in meeting both their practical and strategic needs through participating in collective forms of enterprise, and linking to Fair Trade markets. However, many challenges still remain and the authors warn that it is important to recognise that the process of empowerment is not a linear one where forming collective enterprises and selling to Fair Trade markets will necessarily lead to a change in women’s status.

‘Gender and ethical trade: can vulnerable women workers benefit?’ (2010), Stephanie Barrientos, in S. Chant, The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, pp. 440–5, website:

A large number of global buyers have introduced codes of labour practice to ensure that their suppliers observe minimum international labour standards. However, such codes often fail to reach many women workers, who are clustered in insecure and vulnerable employment (seasonal, casual, migrant, home work, and contract work). It is among these groups of workers that the worst conditions of employment are usually found – low wages, long hours, lack of contracts, no unionisation, poor health and safety, and lack of social protection. This chapter, from the International Handbook of Gender and Poverty, asks whether codes of labour practice can help improve conditions for more vulnerable women workers, arguing that gender discrimination is embedded in the commercial practices of global value chains.

‘The impact of Fair Trade on social and economic development: a review of the literature’ (2008), Ann Le Mare, Geography Compass 2(6): 1922–42

Reviewing case studies and empirical research of a range of Fair Trade products in different countries, this literature review looks at the outcomes of Fair Trade for producers, artisans, and their organisations, and addresses several important aspects of development that Fair Trade seeks to influence, including market relations, institutional development, economic development and reductions in poverty, social development, gender equity, and sustainable development. Although outcomes are diverse, most studies found significant impact on social and economic aspects of development, contributing to the capacity to improve and diversify livelihoods. There appears to be less success, however, in achieving gender equality and dealing with issues of importance to women.

‘Reaching the marginalised? Gender value chains and ethical trade in African horticulture’ (2005), Anne Tallontire, Catherine Dolan, Sally Smith, and Stephanie Barrientos, Development in Practice 15(3/4): 559–71,

This article explores, from a gender perspective, the relationship between value chains in the horticultural sector, the employment patterns of African producers, and the process of code implementation. It asks whether, in the context of the gendered economy, codes of practice alone can improve working conditions for all workers. Using case studies of Kenyan flowers, South African fruit, and Zambian flowers and vegetables, the article highlights the implications of flexible employment strategies for workers, and shows that social codes have not necessarily achieved better outcomes for women and informal workers, as a result of the gendered economy. The authors argue that it is only by addressing the local gendered economy that the employment conditions of all workers, including those of marginal workers and women, are likely to improve.

Labour rights

‘Globalization, labour standards, and women’s rights: dilemmas of collective (in)action in an independent world’ (2004), Naila Kabeer, Feminist Economics 10(1): 3–35

In this important paper, the author challenges the idea that a ‘social clause’ to enforce global labour standards serves the interests of women export workers in low-income countries, arguing that though these jobs may seem exploitative to reformers in the global North, for many women workers in the South they represent genuine opportunities in a context in which no social safety net exists and where the informal sector offers worse prospects. Further, the author argues that global efforts to enforce labour standards through trade sanctions may lead to declining employment, or to the transfer of jobs to the informal economy, and without measures that also address the conditions of workers in this informal economy, demands for a ‘social clause’ will reinforce, and may increase, social inequalities in the labour market.

‘Trade unions and women’s empowerment in north-east Brazil’ (2009), Ben Fine, Gender & Development 17(2): 189–201

This article examines the formation and expansion of a highly globally integrated export horticulture sector in north-east Brazil – in which farms rely on an overwhelmingly female labour force – and the role of the region’s rural trade union in both representing workers generally, and, women workers in particular. The article shows how women workers have become increasingly active within the trade union, and suggests that such outcomes are possible in other global regions of export horticulture.

‘Never the twain shall meet? Women’s organisations and trade unions in the maquila industry in Central America’ (2004), Marina Prieto and Caroline Quinteros, Development in Practice 14(2): 149–57

The maquilas of Central America’s free trade zones have seen the emergence of new actors on the labour front, as women’s organisations and local monitoring groups – some of which are involved in transnational campaigns to improve working conditions in the maquila – are now working alongside the traditional trade union sector. However, attempts between trade unions and these new labour actors to collaborate have been disappointing and often characterised by conflict. Challenging the idea that trade unions and NGOs are in competition, the authors of this article look at the relations between trade unions and women’s organisations. They ask whether such conflicts are inevitable, and suggest ways in which the two kinds of organisation could work together to improve the conditions of workers in Central America.


GET Ahead for Women in Enterprise Training Package and Resource Kit (Second Edition) (2008), Susanne Bauer, Gerry Finnegan, and Nelien Haspels, Geneva: International Labour Organization,—asia/—ro-bangkok/documents/publication/wcms_108267.pdf, 333 pp.

This training package from the International Labour Organization is designed to assist organisations in promoting enterprise development among women living in poverty who want to start, or are already engaged in, small-scale businesses. Addressing the practical and strategic needs of women in enterprise by strengthening their basic business and people management, the package uses participatory and action-oriented training methods which highlight business development and gender relations. A two-page fact sheet (also available in French), summarising the contents of the training pack and kit is available at–en/WCMS_099683/index.htm, Promoting Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality, Phase III.

Building Women Entrepreneurs’ Associations – A Trainers Guide (2010), Geneva: International Labour Organization,–en/index.htm, 150 pp.

Women Entrepreneurs Associations (WEAs) are a particular type of small business association formed to address the challenges specific to women entrepreneurs. Although all small business associations struggle for sustainability, WEAs have gender-based barriers that prevent them from being as effective as other business associations. This training tool from the International Labour Organization is aimed at building the capacity of WEAs in running and improving their associations, and uses practical activities and discussions to create awareness on gender equality and gender-specific issues.

Making the Strongest Links: A Practical Guide to Mainstreaming Gender Analysis in Value Chain Development (2009), Linda Mayoux and Grania Mackie, Geneva: The World Bank,—ed_emp/—emp_ent/documents/instructionalmaterial/wcms_106538.pdf

Arguing that gender analysis is generally the weakest point in most value chain analyses, this manual, aimed at those with some previous knowledge of value chain analysis, aims to show how gender concerns should be incorporated into value chain development, using Gender Equitable Value Chain Action Learning (GEVCAL), for which the Guide provides the framework and methodology.

Promoting Gender Equitable Opportunities in Agricultural Value Chains: A Handbook (2009), Washington, DC: US Agency for International Development,, 134 pp.

This handbook covers conceptual and practical issues for addressing gender in agricultural value chains, and includes a framework for analysing gender issues, and a process for integrating these issues into value chain development, using the ‘Integrating Gender Issues into Agricultural Value Chains’ (INGIA-VC) approach, developed by the US Agency for International Development in Kenya and Tanzania. A helpful 11-page summary of the handbook is available at

Organisations and websites

Gender at Work
177-639 Dupont Street, Toronto, On M6G1Z4, Canada, tel: 1 647-995-4289, fax: 1-866-571-5810, email: info@genderatwork, website:

Gender at Work is a non-profit organisation which has combined feminist thinking with insights from the world of organisational development in order to work both with and within organisations to support institutional transformation that promotes women’s empowerment and gender equality. Gender at Work’s website provides information on the methodology it uses in its work to bring about transformation, plus case studies, and downloadable resources.

International Finance Corporation (IFC)
2121 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA, tel: 1 202 473 1000, fax: 1 202 974 4384, email: via the website, website:
Topics_Ext_Content/IFC_External_Corporate_Site/IFC Sustainability/
Sustainable Business Advisory Services/Women in Business/

A branch of the World Bank, and coming from a ‘gender equality as smart economics’ perspective, the IFC runs a Women in Business programme, which works on assisting the organisation and its clients to take a gender-aware view across all areas of business. The Corporation has developed investment products and advisory services which focus on increasing access to finance and access to markets for women entrepreneurs; reducing gender-based barriers in the business environment; and creating business opportunities for IFC clients built around improved working conditions for female employees, woman-focused market segmentation, and the inclusion of both men and women in community relationships.

International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN)
IGTN Secretariat, Rua da Lapa, 180 salas 908/909- Lapa, 20.021-180 Rio de Janeiro/RJ, Brazil, tel: 55 21 2221 1182, email:, website:

The IGTN is a Southern-led network that builds South–North co-operation with the aim of developing more just and democratic trade policies from a critical feminist perspective. IGTN provides technical information on gender and trade issues to women’s groups, NGOs, social movements, governments, and academic institutions. Its website contains a useful search function in which resources can be searched via trade agreement, issue, region, and language. Many documents are available in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
2001 S St NW #420, Washington, DC 20009, USA, tel: 1 202 347 4100, email:, website:

The ILRF is an advocacy organisation that works to achieve just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. Its projects focus on areas such as child labour, sweatshops, working women’s rights, and violence against trade unions. Publications produced by ILRF address issues such as sexual harassment in the workplace and workers’ rights in flower plantations. Some publications are available in both English and Spanish.

International Labour Organization (ILO)
4 route des Morillons, CH-1211 Genève 22, Switzerland, tel: 41 (0) 22 799 611, fax: 41 (0) 22 798 8685, email:, website:

The ILO (the UN organisation responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards) runs a Women Entrepreneurship Development (WED) programme, which works on enhancing economic opportunities for women through action in support of women starting, formalising, and expanding their enterprises, and by mainstreaming gender equality issues into the ILO’s work in enterprise development. The ILO–WED approach is threefold, working with governments, employers’ organisations, trade unions, and local community-based organisations in order to create an environment for WED that generates quality jobs; builds institutional capacity in WED; and develops tools and support services for women entrepreneurs. The programme’s website provides a variety of ILO resources on women’s entrepreneurship. The ILO is also pioneering a ‘Decent Work Agenda’, with the creation of jobs, the guaranteeing of rights at work, the extension of social protection, and the promotion of social dialogue – with gender equality as a cross-cutting objective – at its heart. More information on Decent Work can be found at–en/index.htm

Oxfam Grow Sell Thrive

Programmes that promote women’s economic leadership (WEL) in agricultural markets aim to enable smallholder women to access markets independently and equitably, and enhance their ability to decide how resources get invested in agriculture at household level and more widely. This website is a space for ongoing dialogue on Oxfam’s and other’s experiences in promoting women smallholders’ economic leadership in agricultural markets to facilitate sharing of good practices and influence wider agricultural investment in the development community. A toolkit is available at 
Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
SEWA Reception Centre, Opp. Victoria Garden, Bhadra, Ahmedabad 380 001, India, tel: 91 79 25506444, fax: 91 79 25506446, email:, website:

SEWA, the celebrated Indian trade union, was started in 1972, and has a membership made up of poor, self-employed women workers. It describes itself as both an organisation and a movement; a movement made up of three different strands – the labour movement, the co-operative movement, and the women’s movement. SEWA’s main objective is to organise women workers for full employment, which for SEWA means employment from which workers obtain work security, income security, food security, and social security (at least health care, child care and shelter). As well as organising women and supporting them in building their own workers’organisations, SEWA also organises campaigns, and provides services to members such as savings, insurance, child care, and health care, which are run as co-operatives. More information on SEWA, plus a variety of resources, can be found on SEWA’s website.

20-First ‘Building Gender-balanced Businesses’
tel 33 1 39 75 42 24, fax: 33 1 39 75 76 92, email:, website:

Seeking to promote ‘gender balance’ (a balance of men and women) rather than ‘women in leadership’, and emphasising the economic benefits to business of gender balance, 20-First works with companies around the world to encourage them to develop more inclusive leadership styles, promote more gender-balanced management teams and review processes and policies to better respond to women – both as employees and consumers, helping businesses to design and implement a successful gender balance initiative at all levels of their organisation. 20-First produces a newsletter, which can be subscribed to via the website.

Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
WIEGO Secretariat, Harvard University, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA, tel: 1 617 496 7037, fax: 1 617 496 2828, email: via website:

Established in 1997, WIEGO is an international research and policy network, which aims to improve the status of the working poor, particularly women, in the informal economy, and effectively sees itself as ‘a “think tank” for the SEWA-inspired international movement of organisations of informal workers’. WIEGO members and associates come from over 100 countries and are drawn from three broad areas: membership-based organisations of informal workers; research, statistical, and academic institutes; and development agencies, both non-governmental and inter-governmental. The organisation has five main programme areas: global markets; organisation and representation; social protection; statistics; and urban policies, and its website contains many valuable resources on these topics.